European police arrest 100 in 'major blow' against crime gangs

European police arrest 100 in 'major blow' against crime gangs

THE HAGUE - European police arrested 100 suspects in a continent-wide swoop aimed at busting organised gangs, including those selling forged identity documents for as little as 250 euros, Europol said on Wednesday.

"In a major international police operation supported by Europol on Tuesday, 950 law enforcement officers in nine countries arrested 100 individuals," the Hague-based Europol said in a statement.

The operation was a "major blow" against organised crime groups operating Europe, said Europol.

Coordinated by the German police and Europol, raids were staged on 138 properties including in Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Sweden -- where the arrests were also made.

Police seized 57 forged documents, as well as cash, guns, drugs, counterfeit cigarettes, one stolen vehicle and jewellery.

Arrest warrants were also issued against two further suspects believed to be responsible for the mass production and forgery of mainly Czech, Romanian and Bulgarian passports, identity cards and counterfeit drivers' licences.

"These documents were used by hundreds of criminals throughout Europe to regularise their stays in the EU, claim welfare benefits and commit other offences ranging from thefts and robberies to racketeering and violent crime."

The suspects charged between 250 euros ($323) and 1,500 euros per ID document.

They were paid by bank transfer after which the forgeries were sent by mail and later by courier to various recipients around Europe.

By April 2014, at least 300 of these fraud ID packages have been sent around the continent, Europol said.

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